This week the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum hosted a panel of thought leaders from law enforcement and civic organizations to discuss the evolution and challenges of anti-bias programs, as well as solutions for meeting the need for enhanced training regimens in police academies.

Sharon Sayles-Belton, Thomson Reuters vice president of Partnerships and Alliances, was the panel’s keynote speaker, sharing her perspective on anti-bias policing training. She drew from her experience as the mayor of Minneapolis from 1994 to 2002 and her earlier roles serving on the Minneapolis City Council and working for the Minnesota Department of Corrections both as a parole officer and as the assistant director of the state program for victims of sexual assault.

Thomson Reuters, which sponsored the panel along with Target, was involved as part of the company’s support of rebuilding efforts in Minneapolis and St. Paul following the tragic death of George Floyd.

The panel was developed in response to states nationwide looking to mandate that officers complete anti-bias training as part of sweeping police legislation. Anti-bias programs have been part of officer training in many jurisdictions, yet their effectiveness has been questioned by independent studies, news outlets and police organizations.

Booker Hodges, assistant commissioner of Law Enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, served as moderator. Panelists included:

Panelists noted more work is needed to understand the problem and efforts are needed to build consensus on approaches to anti-bias training that can lead to meaningful changes in officer behavior and peaceful resolutions to potentially violent confrontations.

Sayles-Belton said, “My experience at the Department of Corrections gives me confidence that we can as cities, states and a nation, improve and restore the trust between our communities and the police. It must start with an acceptance that bias, including racial bias, has been embedded in our institutions. It is not just a problem in policing. The focus of the public’s outrage is that police bias can result in immediate loss of life by lethal means.”

Watch a recording of Sayles-Belton’s keynote and the panel discussion on CSPAN.

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